New Delhi: What causes more loss of lives in India – terror attacks or road accidents? The deadly Indian roads claimed 17 lives every hour in 2017, when acts of terrorism claimed less than 300 lives (less than one a day) in the entire year. And for every Indian killed in a road accident, three more suffered various degrees of injuries.
These shocking numbers continue to pour in year after year, with little effort on the part of the road users, drivers, pedestrians and others to follow safety norms.
Vehicle density – which means number of vehicles per kilometre of road length – has increased by almost 46% in just six years between 2010 and 206. This proves the pet peeve about traffic jams being rooted in reality. But growth in road length has lagged far behind the growth in the number of vehicles, leading to increasing congestion. And the government seems hesitant to put in place stringent penalties for violation of traffic norms, despite paying lip service to road safety through the last many years.
So we have a pitiable situation where the odds of being dead on the roads are multiple times higher than in a terror attack. According to the India Risk Survey report released by business chamber Ficci, the country recorded 797 terror attacks which led to 289 deaths in 2017.
But the simple act of driving or walking on Indian roads claimed the lives of 17 people each hour of every single day in 2017, according to latest data released by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH). In the same year, almost 1300 people were injured on average each day, or almost 54 people every single hour or each day, according to the ‘Road Accidents in India 2017’ report.
It showed that 405 people died each day of 2017 in road accidents, almost 17 people an hour. Total fatalities were 1,47,913. The number of injured was 4,70,975 people, three times those killed in road accidents. The total number of reported road accidents were 4,64,910. This means almost 1274 accidents on average every single day of the year, or 53 accidents every hour.
What were the biggest causes of road accidents in 2017. No surprises here. Government data showed over speeding was the single biggest reason for accidents, and together with driving in the wrong side of the road, accounted for 73.1% of all road deaths. In other words, these two violations caused three in four deaths due to accidents in 2017; they also resulted in 76.7% of total accidents and almost 80% of all road injuries.
“Over speeding as the major traffic rules violation involving accidents in 2017 is corroborated by the data on road accidents by type of collision…which show that head on collision constituted the highest collision type (18.7%) followed by hit from back (16.7%), among the specified collision types of road accidents during the year. Accidents involving head on collision and hit from back between two vehicles are usually associated with high speeding vehicles,” the government report said. Violation of other rules such as drunk driving, red light jumping and use of mobile phones together accounted for just 6.2% accidents and 6.5% deaths. Road accidents which do not involve traffic rules violation or violation not known (such as hit-and-run cases) constitute 17.1 per cent and accounted for 20.3 per cent of the total fatality or every fifth life lost on the roads.
As precious lives continue to be extinguished on Indian roads, it is time to look back and ask about the status of the much-hyped Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, which proposed stiff penalties for various traffic violations. The MoRTH had introduced the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill in Parliament in 2016 which proposed stiff penalties for all types of traffic violations. But the Bill is still with a Select Committee, though it was passed by the lower House.
Among the original provisions of this bill was a five-fold increase in penalty for over speeding from Rs 400 earlier to Rs 2000; a 10-fold increase in fine for driving without licence to Rs 5000, a five-fold increase in fine for drunk driving to Rs 10,000 and so on.
Meanwhile, the ministry’s report on road accidents also provides other damning statistics. That India’s highways are deadly is no secret but the numbers provide a chilling account of the extent of risk when travelling on these highways. So highways comprise just 2% of the road network across the length and breadth of the country but account for more than every third fatality at 36% of all road deaths and 30.4% of all accidents.
Then, two wheelers accounted for more than a third of the accidents last fiscal at 33.9% and more than a fourth of the deaths due to accidents at 29.8%. And the category of cars, taxis and jeeps accounted for every fourth accident and every fifth death in a road accident.
Vehicle density expressed in number of vehicles per kilometer of road length has increased from 28 vehicles in 2010 to 41 in 2016. That is an increase of 46%. This is indicative of the growing road traffic congestion in the country (for lack of a more appropriate data, i.e., vehicles on roads). But sample this: During the decade 2006 to 2016 total road length of the country increased at a compounded annual growth rate of just 3.7%. Vehicle density was up 46% in just 6 years while road length has increased at a 12th of that!
In 2017, 48,746 road users on two-wheelers lost their lives to road accidents and constitute the single largest road user category in the number of road accident deaths. Out of this, 73.8% or three in four did not wear helmets. Seatbelts are mandatory for driver and the person seated in the front seat in vehicles other than two-wheelers and three-wheelers. In 2017, a total of 26,896 persons killed in road accidents did not use seatbelts.